Learning the process

Hello blog. It’s been a while. I wasn’t very well. And real life is just so ‘gosh darnit’ real at times. The novel remains unedited. My diary remains unfull – I am practising my positive spinnery in anticipation of paid marketing work. Hence not ’empty’ – merely ‘unfull’ – which suggests that at any moment it will become full. Overflowing, in fact. So full that it may well need recycling.

Anyhoo. Some other folk have now read the friends and family draft of the first book. And they’ve been polite and said some of the right things, and some of the wrong things. I had the slightly surreal experience of five of my closest friends turn on me in the pub to deliver their verdicts on bits read to date. And the very surreal experience of two people disagreeing (not exactly arguing) about some part of it in front of me… hello! Author here!… which goes to show – once the book is out of your head you don’t own it any more.

More importantly I learnt a few lessons. I learnt that it’s not enough just to ‘make things up’. You have to ‘make them up believably’ – so if something could happen in the way you describe it, you should really check whether it does or doesn’t. I failed on two counts –

  1. Not doing enough research. Simple things like timings, costs, and on to more complex things like gambling systems and whether or not there is any sand on Hastings beach.
  2. Not being clear enough as to what I want to say. There are so many mixed herrings and white rabbits disappearing down holes that sometimes basics like characterisation and plot have suffered. I need to ask ‘why’ a lot more… ‘why is this incidental character here?’, ‘why does my character do this?’, ‘what makes my reader want to turn the page?’. I think I’m reasonably good at the plot movement – in the sense that there is always something of interest to turn the page – but less so on ‘do I like the characters?’ … and the end impression on the reader.

In short, I need to turn it from something that is ‘readable’ to something that is ‘talkable’. I have yet to make my readers think – they are merely along for the ride. And for the moment, they ride because they are friends and family, not because they want to read what I write.

I’ve started reading again, to try to broaden my horizons:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go . Beautifully written, with a very strong narrative voice, but I preferred the same concept’s treatment in @ememess‘s Spares, (but then I’m biased). The kind of book that people want to talk about. Hence jealousy.
  • a bastardised version of Don Quixote
  • currently reading Jonathan Lethem, You don’t love me, yet. Enjoying his use of language, and some of his kooky ideas, although it feels like an Hernandez Bros Love and Rockets novel. Which is no bad thing.

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